17 Natural Remedies for the Common Cold (No Emergen-C Needed)

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

17 1 | 17 Natural Remedies For The Common Cold (No Emergen-C Needed)


 You value eating real food and putting quality nutrients into your body, so, if you come down with the common cold or flu, do you have real (natural) treatment options? Or do you have to resort to the drugs? You decide…


The ‘common cold’ is on the loose.


“Lauryn, I’m doing the drugs. I feel horrible,” my friend told me, sniffling on the phone as we chatted.


Down and out with the cold, she was feeling anything but herself and wanted something to irradicate it—fast:


Benadryl to the rescue!


Natural Remedies For The Common Cold


By 9:30 pm she was out like a lighy, hoping to feel better come morning.


The next day…not much improvement.


“I’ve been in bed all day, still not feeling great,” she texted me at 1:30 p.m.


And so the cold ensued….still…for about 3-5 days.


While most conventional wisdom will tell you: “There’s no cure for the common cold”…there IS.


Before we dive into my # cold-and-flu season busting tips (below), it’s essential you understand a little bit more about what could and does trigger colds in the first place (the roots)…then we’ll understand more about what it takes to destroy them.


Where do colds come from?


Cold and flu season can happen at any time, but it is most often happens in the fall and winter months.




Is it because the weather is colder outside that suddenly we get colds?


Not quite.


If we think about what changes most during the fall and winter, let’s take a look at our nutrition:


  • Thanksgiving feasts
  • Snacking on peanut brittle, cakes and candies at the office
  • Holiday pumpkin pie
  • Cookie exchange parties
  • New Year’s booze
  • Superbowl nachos and honey-mustard glazed chicken wings
  • Consumption of foods you just aren’t used to—even if you eat healthy most of the time (Aunt Bethany’s sweet potato casserole, snacky finger foods and treats, party foods outside your home, etc.)


In other words: alcohol, sugar, gluten, junk and/or simply more unfamiliar foods.


Our diets and nutrition change the most—and being that our gut health is responsible for about 80% of your immunity in the first place…BOOM, your bod takes a shot.


If you have a ‘weak’, leaky, unhealthy gut or impaired digestion, you are already more susceptible to things like colds, sore throats, 24-hour bugs and allergies (food and environment).


Couple this with all the processed, sugar-laden and other nose-dives our nutrition often takes during the fall and winter, and yes, your body as a whole becomes more at risk for lowered immunity.


Take this self-assessment to see where you (and your gut) may be on the immunity spectrum:


#1: Do you eat grains/gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, coffee or any other foods that may not always agree with you (eggs, nuts, nightshade veggies, acidic tomatoes and citrus)?


#2: How’s your water intake daily? Do you know how much you need?

(Answer: Half your bodyweight in ounces! If and when we are under-hydrated, our guts are going to struggle to digest, assimilate and metabolize your nutrients).


#3: Do you take a daily probiotic or eat probiotic-rich (i.e. kombucha, fermented foods, organic full-fat plain yogurt, etc.) daily?


#4. What does your poop look like? How often do you poop?

Check out the Bristol stool chart (below). A “normal” poop is “like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft.  If your poops aren’t looking like a 3 or 4… you’re not normal.


Natural Remedies For The Common Cold


In addition, if you never quite feel like you get a complete poop out—more often that not… you’re not having ideal bowel movements. Lastly, if you find yourself pooping a couple times a week… or going 5+ times a day, you’ve got some issues.

#5 How frequently do you experience constipation, bloating, gas? And when do you notice these symptoms occur?

If often (as in daily), your gut is not normal.

If typically after meals, your gut is not normal.


Of course these 5 questions are a broad overview of factors attributed to gut health, but can give you a little more insight into your own susceptibility for colds and flus during “the season.”


If you find yourself down and out with a cold or flu this season, here are some simple cold-busting tips to get over the hump (no Benadryl necessary):



Water. Yes. Duh. Unsexy point, I know. But increased fluid consumption offers several benefits. When the membranes that line your respiratory tract get dehydrated, in particular, they provide a breeding ground for colds and viruses. By maintaining a moist respiratory tract, helps your body repel infections. In addition, water helps improve the function of your virus-fighting white blood cells by decreasing the concentration of solutes in your blood.

Probiotics. Since the gut is the gateway to health (and house of your immunity), it makes nothing but perfect sense to have HEALTHY bacteria in there to ward off toxins, bad bacteria, viruses and other outside invaders. Support your gut with a probiotic supplement like Prescript Assist’s soil-based formula one to two times a day, or incorporate fermented foods into your diet (recommended: 2-4 tbsp. sauerkraut with each meal; or 2-4 oz. kombucha 1-2 times per day).


Apple Cider Vinegar. Alkalizes the body and helps kill viruses and bacteria. Drink a tablespoon in water at the first onset of illness and repeat hourly until symptoms disappear. If already well-into your illness, use Apple Cider Vinegar in water before every meal—it will aid in proper digestion in your gut.


No sugar. As mentioned above, sugar (along with other gut irritants) can impair immune function. Excessive sugar consumption can also directly decrease Vitamin C levels and result in a significant reduction in white blood cell function. While you’re at it, be mindful of what else you are eating (i.e. the Saltines and Sprite may not be the most ideal for supporting your recovery).


Avoid mucus-producing foods (dairy; alcohol; sugar; wheat; refined breads, pastas and rice; fried foods; etc.). As mentioned above, your gut is the gateway to health and certain foods irritate your gut more than others, resulting in inflammation, phlegm, and mucus—to name a few side effects.


Herbal Tea. Reach for teas with fresh ginger (a natural anti-inflammatory herb), or other herbs with anti-inflammatory effects such as licorice root, turmeric, and Echinacea*. Bonus: add honey and/or lemon. Lemon is a good natural source of vitamin C, and has a soothing quality on a sore throat – especially when combined with honey.


Bone broth. Mmm…mmm good (and better than Campbell’s). There’s nothing like a warming bowl of nourishing broth to deliver amino acids, vitamins and minerals to your bod.


Garlic. Mince a clove or two of garlic and consume (To “activate” garlic’s medicinal magic—allicin, compress a fresh clove with a spoon prior to swallowing it, or put it through your juicer to add to your vegetable juice; Note: The active ingredient, allicin, is destroyed within one hour of smashing the garlic, so garlic pills are worthless). Garlic has antibiotic and antiviral properties and ingesting it may lessen the severity and the time of sickness.


Coconut Oil. Rich in lauric acid; dissolves the lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system (destroy your virus). If under the weather, aim for 5-6 tablespoons per day in food or melted and stirred into hot tea.



Rest. The body recoops at rest—no explanation needed. Use it as an excuse to sleep.


Humidifier. Add moisture to the air with a humidifier to help ease coughing and congestion. Make your own natural steam humidifier: Boil 1-2 cups of water in a large pot. Remove from heat, add 2 teaspoons each of thyme, rosemary and oregano. Cover for 5 minutes with a lid, and then remove lid and put face directly over pot with towel covering your head to hold in the heat. Breathe in the steam as long as you can, aim for 15 minutes.

Sweat it out. In Chinese medicine, sweating is recommended at the early stages of a cold. Cleanse your pores with a hot bath or hit the sauna. Let your body de-tox. (Bring on the bubbles! And make sure you replenish your sweat with lots of fluids).



Vitamin C. Emergen-C and Airborne tablets have capitalized on this highly touted vitamin, but its true, Vitamin C is beneficial in reducing the risk of developing colds and treating colds. My go-to formula? Wellness Formula! (shout it as the rooftops!). Emergen-c and Airborne definitely have some good marketing, but Wellness Formula has reviews and packed tablets (with Vitamin C AND other essential nutrients) to go along with it.


Zinc. Crucial for optimizing your immune system function overall and also has antiviral activity. When you feel the onset of a cold come on, reach for zinc lozenges (like these)—free from artificial sweeteners. Suck on two every couple hours for up to 7 days. Zinc has been shown to dramatically reduce the duration and severity of a cold.


Vitamin A. Necessary for optimizing your zinc uptake. Vitamin A is also known to play a role in immune function. It naturally decreases during illness, so increasing vitamin A rich foods are highly important. Quality sources of vitamin A include: liver and cod liver oil (similar to fish oil), egg yolks, butter, and leafy green vegetables (I love Power Greens!).


Krill Oil and Vitamin D. Krill oil fights inflammation like the plague. And in order to work: Vitamin D is crucial for the uptake and assimilation of your krill oil! Sources of Vitamin D include: Egg yolks, butter, liver, and some oily fish such as salmon and sardines, and of course the sun.


Oregano Oil. A natural antibiotic so only use it short term during your illness, not as a preventative. Try gargling with a few drops in a shot of water could speed your healing process. Note: take it aside from probiotics and probiotic foods. For example, if you take your probiotic around breakfast time, use the oregano oil later in the day (you don’t want your probiotic killing off it’s boosting properties).


Natural Remedies For The Common Cold

Stop band-aiding your symptoms with “drugs” and placebo effect Emergen-C. Use these measures for some real deal support to get over the hump.

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